The primary goal of the first ever polymer flood field pilot at Milne Point is to validate the use of polymers for heavy oil Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) on Alaska North Slope (ANS). The specific objectives are systematic evaluation of advanced technology that integrates polymer flooding, low salinity water flooding, horizontal wells, and numerical simulation based on polymer flood performance data. Accordingly, under the co-sponsorship of the US Department of Energy and Hilcorp Alaska LLC the first ever polymer field pilot commenced on August 28, 2018 in the Schrader Bluff heavy oil reservoir at the Milne Point Unit (MPU) on ANS. The pilot started injecting hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM), at a concentration of 1,750 ppm to achieve a target viscosity of 45 cP, into the two horizontal injectors in the J-pad flood pattern. Since July 2020, HPAM concentration was reduced to 1,200 ppm to control injectivity and optimize polymer utilization. Filter ratio tests conducted on site ensure uniform polymer solution properties. Injectivity is assessed by Hall plots, whereas production is monitored via oil and water rates from the two producers. Water samples are analyzed to determine the produced polymer concentration. Supporting laboratory core floods on polymer retention, injection water salinity, polymer loading, and their combinations on oil recovery, match rock, fluid and test conditions. A calibrated and validated numerical multiphase reservoir model was developed for long-term reservoir performance prediction and for evaluating the project's economic performance in conjunction with an economic model. Concerns related to handling of produced fluids containing polymer are addressed by specialized experiments. As would be expected in a field experiment of this scale, barring some operational and hydration issues, continuous polymer injection has been achieved. As of September 30, 2022, a total of 1.41 million lbs. of polymer or 2.99 million bbls of polymer solution (~18.8% of total pore volume), placed in the pattern serves as an effective indicator of polymer injectivity. During the first half of the pilot period, water cut (WC) drastically reduced in both producers and over the entire duration, the deemed EOR benefit over waterflood was in the range of 700-1,000 bopd, and that too at a low polymer utilization of 1.7 lbs./bbl. Low concentration polymer breakthrough was observed after 26-28 months, which is now stabilized at 600-800 ppm in congruence with the WC. Although as indicated by laboratory experiments, polymer retention in core material is high; ~70% of the injected polymer propagates without any delay, while the remaining 30% tails over several PVs. History matched simulation models consistently forecasts polymer recovery of 1.5-2 times that of waterflood, and when integrated with the economic modeling tool, establish the economic profitability of the first ever polymer flood field pilot. Produced fluid experiments provide operational guidance for treating emulsions and heater-treater operating temperature. Over a duration of ~4.5 years important outstanding technical issues that entail polymer flooding of heavy oils have been resolved, which forms the basis of the success story summarized in the paper. The first ever polymer pilot is deemed as a technical and economic success in significantly improving the heavy oil recovery on ANS. The pilot has provided impetus to not only apply polymer EOR throughout the Milne Point Field, but has paved the way for additional state-funded research targeting even heavier oils on the ANS. The combined success of this work and the future work will contribute to the longevity of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS).


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Second Department

Chemical and Biochemical Engineering


U.S. Department of Energy, Grant DE-FE0031606

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 2023 Society of Petroleum Engineers, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2023